North Korea wields new diplomatic card

North Korea wields new diplomatic card
From left to right: North Korean Hwang Pyong-So and South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae leaving a hotel at Incheon on October 4, 2014.

On the Korean Peninsula, the big news was the surprise one-day visit to the Republic of Korea on Saturday by three top officials from the Democratic People's Republic of Korean - Hwang Pyong-so, Choe Ryong-hae and Kim Yang-gon - to attend the closing ceremony of the Incheon Asian Games. It was unprecedented for such high-level DPRK officials to travel together to the ROK. Their visit was highly welcomed by Park Geun-hye administration. The sports diplomacy is politically significant, as it shows the willingness of the two countries to improve relations. It can be regarded as the climax of recent diplomatic efforts made by the DPRK, which reflects an adjustment by the Kim Jong-un government in the way it interacts with the international community.

After failing with its on-the-brink-of-war policy in 2013, the DPRK is now relying on diplomatic means. Based on the consolidation of power, developing the economy and improving people's livelihoods, and ending its isolation are the top priorities on Kim Jong-un's agenda.

It is worth noting that this trip also resulted from the personal style of Kim Jong-un himself. Compared with his father, Kim Jong-un is much more open and confident, which has been demonstrated by the way he has made his health problems public through the DPRK's official media.

The new diplomatic gestures made by the DPRK have a very positive meaning, but it is still too early to be too optimistic about the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Only three days after the visit by the top DPRK officials, naval patrol vessels from the two sides exchanged warning fire on Tuesday near their disputed western sea border, which has been the site of numerous clashes in the past. The high-level visit followed by the exchange of fire showed how complicated the situation is on the Korean Peninsula. While the two do have the willingness to improve ties, there are still many factors of confrontation.

The reason for the isolation of the DPRK since Kim Jong-un took office can be attributed to nuclear test in January 2013 and the brink-of-war policy it adopted.

Now it is even more difficult to stop the DPRK from pursuing nuclear weapons, as it clearly wrote into its Constitution the right to own nuclear weapons. In the new diplomatic approach, the DPRK diplomats will talk about any issue but denuclearization. This really is opposite to expectations of international community.

Furthermore, an important factor to improve the situation on the Korean Peninsula is to promote DPRK-US relations. The US's distrust of the DPRK has increased to a new high after the DPRK unilaterally tore up the 2.29 protocol with the US, carried out its third nuclear test, and even more dangerous brink-of-war policy than Kim Jong-il era.

Nevertheless, the international community has noted the active diplomatic adjustment of the DPRK, which has been encouraged by China, which is strongly against the DPRK's pursuit of nuclear weapons. What the DPRK needs to do is to continue its active diplomatic activity and to compromise on denuclearization. And the Western media should stop speculating about Kim Jong-un's absence from the public eye over the past month. Only by reassuring the DPRK of its government's survival will there be any chance of the DPRK agreeing to denuclearization.

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